NYDEC Draft Scope Natural Gas Drilling (PDF) Download, October 5, 2008

draftscope1

(Download the PDF from the link above)

Draft Scope for Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program

Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs

Draft Scope (PDF, 404 KB)

The Department is accepting written comments on this draft scope through the close of business on December 15, 2008. A schedule of public meetings in the Southern Tier and Catskills to receive verbal comments will be announced shortly.

Submit comments to: Attn: Scope Comments, Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation, NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources, 625 Broadway – Third Floor, Albany, NY 12233-6500

or email to: dmnog@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Scope Comments” as the Subject

Executive Summary

The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for regulating the development and production of oil and gas resources in New York State. Natural gas exploration and production companies, and mineral rights owners, are interested in developing a potentially significant gas resource in the Marcellus Shale through the use of horizontal drilling and a hydraulic fracturing technique known as “slick water fracturing.” This technique requires large volumes of water. The Department has identified the action of well permit issuance when high-volume hydraulic fracturing is proposed as one which requires further review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). This draft scope and the public meetings where it will be discussed are the first steps in that process.

The Department evaluated its oil and gas regulatory program through development of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”) which was finalized in 1992 and which sets parameters that are applicable statewide for SEQRA review of gas well permitting. This draft scope describes the topics related to well permit issuance for high-volume hydraulic fracturing that the Department has identified for review in a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“dSGEIS”). Written and verbal comments from all interested parties will be considered in the preparation of a Final Scope, and then the dSGEIS will be released for additional public review and comment. The final SGEIS, to be prepared after consideration of comments received on the draft, will set additional parameters for SEQRA review. The Department will then issue well permits for gas well development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in accordance with both the GEIS and the SGEIS.

Aspects of high-volume hydraulic fracturing identified in this draft scope for further review include the potential impacts of (1) water withdrawals, (2) transportation of water to the site, (3) the use of additives in the water to enhance the hydraulic fracturing process, (4) space and facilities required at the well site to ensure proper handling of water and additives, and (5) removal of spent fracturing fluid from the well site and its ultimate disposition. Noise, visual and air quality considerations are noted, along with the potential for cumulative and community impacts. The well permitting process is described, and regulatory coordination with other jurisdictional agencies and local governments are also discussed.

Narrative background and context is included in this document solely for the purpose of assisting the reader in evaluating the draft scope, is based upon the Department’s experience implementing the GEIS and regulating oil and gas drilling in New York State, and is for reference only. Nothing contained in this draft scope is intended, nor should it be construed, as stating a position with respect to any matters that will ultimately be addressed in the SGEIS. In order to avoid duplication, and to ensure that the SGEIS serves to complement the GEIS, interested persons are urged to carefully review the GEIS in connection with the preparation of any comments. Note that the GEIS also includes a glossary of technical terms.

Advertisements

Seismic testing generates waves of concern

Roadblock for seismic testing thumper trucks?

Seismic testing generates waves of concern

By FRITZ MAYER

NARROWSBURG, NY — “They create earthquakes underground.” That’s how one official described the activity of thumper trucks, though their actual mission is to engage in seismic testing to help drilling companies understand the makeup of the various layers of materials deep underground.

Essentially, thumper trucks come equipped with a large metal foot, which stomps on the ground. The action creates seismic waves that bounce off the rocks below and are then recorded and measured by instruments on the ground. This information is then sold to drilling companies to help determine the best place to drill for gas or oil.

The Town of Tusten is holding a public hearing on September 29 to hear comments about whether the town should declare a six-month moratorium on seismic testing on the roads of Tusten. The four other towns that are working with Tusten on performing road assessments in advance of what will likely be a lot of gas drilling in the region, are also addressing the issue; the towns are Highland, Delaware, Cochecton and, most recently, Lumberland.

Tusten supervisor Ben Johnson said the testing activity will come before the drilling activity begins, so the town board decided the issue needed to be addressed soon. The fact that a thumper truck operator showed up at the town hall on September 8, seeking a permit to work, added a bit of urgency to the matter.

Johnson said the board would use the six-month moratorium time to write an ordinance that would cover seismic-testing activity.

Johnson said seismic activity has been done in the past with no problem, back in the ’60s and ’70s, but the board wanted to be sure that should any problems arise the town would be protected. Of specific concern is any possible damage to wells or the Narrowsburg sewer system. Also, the board wants to be sure town roads are protected against excessive wear. He added that after the moratorium, a permit will be needed to conduct seismic tests.

Along with possible damage, however, is another question being asked not only here, but in neighboring counties: who actually owns the right to the data gathered by the thumpers. The trucks not only get information from under the road or parcel on which they’re located, but also from neighboring properties.

Farmers in New York’s Southern Tier have been arguing that collecting data from underneath their property without their permission and without compensation is tantamount to theft.

Representatives from the gas companies have argued that the information is similar to gas itself, and that if they can get it out of the ground, it’s there for the taking.

Others say many people are attempting to profit from gas drilling in one way or another, and landowners should be compensated for information taken from under their land, especially information that helps gas companies strike it rich.

Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said the information collected by seismic testing could give one side a bargaining advantage. “Suppose you’re a landowner and testing from outside your property shows that you’re in a real sweet spot for drilling. The gas company isn’t going to give you that information, so that would give the gas company an advantage.”

Some people are taking the issue very seriously. According to an article in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Bradd Vickers, president of the Chenango County Farm Bureau, recently chased away a caravan of thumpers from a road in the Town of Preston after a brief test of wills.

Vickers wants towns to require the testing companies to get permission from landowners as part of the process of getting a permit.

Contributed photo
Thumper trucks like this one take seismic readings of underground features to guide drilling companies in their quest for gas or oil. (Click for larger version)

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Monday, September 22nd 2008, 6:18 PM

Be Our Guest: James Gennaro, councilman

In the recent oil rush film “There Will Be Blood,” early 20th century speculators go door to door and offer struggling landowners money in exchange for the right to drill through the ground and reap the riches that flow underneath.

About 100 miles north of New York City, in the watershed from which 9 million New Yorkers get their drinking water, a similar scene is being played out right now. As a result of a new law recently passed by the state Legislature that will greatly facilitate natural gas drilling upstate, energy companies are paying landowners princely sums for leases allowing them to drill for gas almost 2 miles underground using an environmentally problematic technique called “hydraulic fracturing.”

In the film version of this story, the prospecting enriches everyone involved, but not without terrible environmental and human tolls from contamination. In the real-life version of this story, environmental experts and I warn of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses for the New York City drinking water supply. As a geologist, environmental scientist and public policymaker who has been deeply involved in efforts to preserve and enhance the city’s drinking water quality for almost 20 years, I believe that this activity will result in the degradation of the water quality in the city’s upstate reservoirs and ultimately lead to city residents being forced to pay in excess of $10 billion for a water filtration plant to clean up the mess.

We cannot allow this to happen. Not to ourselves, and not to our children. With state legislation already passed in stealth, it is now up to the public and the media – and the power of its collective voices – to make sure a bad state law doesn’t pollute New York City’s drinking water supply and cost city taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.

The law in question, S8169A, will help expand drilling prospects greatly across upstate New York‘s Marcellus Shale underground rock formation, including areas within New York City’s drinking water supply watershed. This law could have and should have excluded the area within the city’s drinking water supply, but it didn’t. At a public hearing that I chaired in City Hall on Sept. 10, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis would not commit to formally excluding our drinking water supply from drilling, but that may change if enough New Yorkers stand up and join me in my protest.

Hydraulic fracturing has contaminated water supplies in other states, including Wyoming and New Mexico. The method, which for each well forces millions of gallons of water, sand and industrial chemicals through earth as deep as 9,000 feet underground, has been decried for its impact on water supplies by numerous environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Catskill Mountainkeeper and Earthwatch’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

There are abundant areas upstate outside of the city’s watershed that overlay the Marcellus Shale where drilling could conceivably proceed with the proper environmental safeguards. But not in our water supply. Never in our water supply. Let’s not let the allure of the short-term economic gain from drilling blind us to the fact that if this is allowed in our water supply, the economic benefits will pale in comparison to degraded reservoirs and a prohibitively expensive filtration plant we wouldn’t otherwise need.

Everyone knows that water and oil don’t mix. Neither do water and natural gas.

James Gennaro is chairman of the New York City Council‘s Committee on Environmental Protection.’It is now up to the public and the media.’